Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. – Photo by Ayanna Kinsale
THA CHIEF Secretary Farley Augustine is calling on both the Prime Minster and Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, to investigate swiftly why Tobagonians are being prevented from accessing services of the Registrar General’s office.
He made the call on Friday in an interview with reporters after addressing a function to welcome to Tobago new Indian High Commissioner to TT Dr Pradeep Singh Rajpurohit and director general of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations Shri Kumar Tuhin.
The ceremony, hosted by the Tobago Hindu Society and the Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Cultural Cooperation, was held at the Bon Accord Multipurpose Facility.
Augustine drew attention to the issue in an earlier statement from his office, saying he had received numerous complaints from irate Tobagonians about their inability to access services from the Registrar General’s office.
He also said he had commissioned an investigation to determine why Tobagonians were being denied their legitimate right to access to the services provided by the Registrar General’s office.
Augustine said he was advised that the Deputy Registrar General (Tobago), appointed by the Judicial and Legal Services Commission to the Office of the Prime Minster, Central Administrative Services, Tobago was “arbitrarily locked out” from the online system by a senior public servant from the Registrar General’s department, Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs.
He said he had been told the clerical staff of the Registrar General’s office, Tobago, were not granted credentials to access the online system to provide services to Tobagonians.
He was told, he said, this “arbitrary action is related to a difference of opinion between the senior public servant at the Registrar General’s department in Trinidad and the Central Administrative Services, Tobago, regarding an administrative protocol, which is totally unrelated to the processing of civil, land and company documents at the Registrar General’s office, Tobago.”
He said the real impact of this move is the “collective punishment of Tobagonians,” adding, “These actions are abusive, totally unacceptable and should not be allowed to go unattended.”
Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC. – Photo by Jeff K. Mayers
In his interview with reporters later, Augustine described the situation as “beyond unfortunate,” saying, “We cannot hold an entire island to ransom because of people’s opinions or their feelings or public servants just not doing what they ought to do. As far as I am concerned, at all counts, the service should be provided to the people of Tobago.
“To lock out Tobagonians out of that service is misbehaviour in public office, and whosoever that public servant is, as far as I am concerned, that must be dealt with strongly and swiftly.
“It cannot be allowed. How could someone just decide on their own, ‘Let’s lock out Tobagonians’?”
Augustine said Tobagonians need the services.
“So we are not deserving of birth papers? You have a death in your family, you need the death certificate to prepare – you can’t get that.
“Imagine if you are Muslim and you need to get buried within your religious rites within a quick space of time, then you are denied that opportunity.”
The situation, he said, constituted a denial of fundamental human rights.
“And it is being done to an entire island just because one public servant thinks they have strength in the law to do so.
“That is unbecoming. It is unacceptable. It is inexcusable.
“As a matter of fact, I don’t want any excuses. We need to get the system reopened immediately and return access to Tobagonians.”
Augustine said he had written to the AG, who has remit over the Registrar General’s department, calling on him to act.
He added he had also copied Dr Rowley and Tobago MPs Shamfa Cudjoe and Ayanna Webster-Roy.
Augustine said the action, as far as he knows, was not politically motivated.
“It was actioned by public servants and that must be treated with by his office, who has remit over the Attorney General’s office and the Registrar General’s office.”